44% Growth for French Online Poker Market Not All Due to Coronavirus

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Coronavirus lockdowns have helped the French online poker industry achieve record highs during the first quarter of 2020, but they’re not the only reason.

Revenue report
The latest revenue report from French online poker regulator ARJEL has revealed more positive movement for the industry. (Image: Pixabay)

Online poker traffic has surged in the UK, the US, and in other parts of the world in recent weeks. The situation in France has been much the same, according to the latest financial report from ARJEL, but the regulator’s June 8 summary shows the upswing isn’t solely the result of COVID-19 quarantine measures.

Lockdown Causes Internet Surge

France went into lockdown on March 17. President Emmanuel Macron’s strict lockdown law meant residents had to justify leaving their house to police and army officers who were patrolling the streets.

The tough stance meant online entertainment became the order of the day for many. Streaming services such as Netflix saw a 31% increase in activity within just a few days of the quarantine’s start. Internet usage also rose by 48% in March and April, according to data from Statista.

Poker has followed that trend. As per the report, French online poker revenue is up 44.1% year-on-year. Comparing Q1 2019 to Q1 2020, income from locally licensed operators increased from €68 million/$75 million to €98 million/$109 million.

Tournaments led the way, with revenue topping €70 million/$78 million — a 54% year-on-year improvement. Cash game rake was also up from €23 million/$25 million in 2019 to €28 million/$31 million in 2020.

ARJEL makes it clear that the latest report only takes into account two weeks of lockdown conditions.

“The full effect of the health crisis cannot be truly appreciated until consolidated data for the second quarter, as well as that of following quarters, is calculated” reads the report. “Over the last two weeks of the quarter, the turnover of activity increased by 180% compared to last year’s result,” the report continues.

While COVID-19 lockdowns aren’t the only reason for the upswing, they have helped. The financial overview also states that activity in the final two weeks of March was up significantly. Given those facts, Q2’s results should show even greater gains for French online poker operators. As things stand right now, however, industry earnings are higher than they’ve ever been.

French Online Poker Was Already Booming

For those with an eye on the French online poker industry, the recent figures are more than a sign of the times. Coronavirus lockdowns have undoubtedly contributed to a bigger than expected upswing, but French online poker operators have been on an upward trajectory since 2017.

Gains within the sports betting sector are evidence for a general uptick in gambling activity across France in recent months. With coronavirus putting a stop to live sport, the final two weeks of March were a testing time for the sector. The French horse racing authority stopped all events on March 17, as did other major organizations.

Despite that, sports betting revenue for the quarter still increased by 18.5% year-on-year to €263 million/$294 million. This, combined with the ongoing benefits of liquidity sharing between France, Spain, and Portugal, has helped online poker.

There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the resurgence of the online poker in France. While the long-term impact of the pandemic may wear off in time, the situation has provided another shot in the arm for the once beleaguered industry.

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